Background to the change
iMusician have had the same model, and the same prices for 15 years. A lot has changed in that time and we wanted to build a new model that would work for the future of music and musicians, so why did we end up where we are… well, there are a lot of reasons and they are listed below, in detail!
This is a long post - a reminder that you can translate to your own language by following these steps
Return on (your) Investment?
The biggest risk to us was not changing and - any risk for iMusician is a risk for our customers, to whom we promised to keep their music online forever and we take this seriously
The most important things to us was a key statistic that we became aware of - a large (too large) number of our customers don’t make back the money from releasing (not just with us, but with any distributor). Our previous model (with Rockstar, Regular etc) was released ~13 years ago, when shops were paying a LOT more per stream (Examples from 2015, 2017 ). Over the years we have just been seeing this reduce and reduce and I don’t think it will get better anytime soon.
So we asked ourselves: What can we do to improve things for independent artists? The answer - more features, more promotion tools, more revenue opportunities and more data. All of these things cost (development time, storage, security etc etc). so we’re faced with either increasing the price for releasing in order to cover this OR splitting it out - if you want the high level services you can opt-in for them and, at the same time, we can reduce the cost to release for those that just want releasing.
Fraud is growing (and it is costing everyone).
The second thing to note is the rise (and rise) of fraud in music. This is not just about people stealing copyrights and fake streams but also organised criminal gangs and even money laundering. The response of almost all of the shops has been simple: blame the distributor and remove tracks, usually without notifying anyone until it is done.
So, then we have additional work to do in tracking and removing fraud before it happens (and dealing with the fallout of having to ensure that payments are not going to organised crime organisations etc).
Sidenote: Music fraud costs everyone. Every cent earned by fraudsters (aka criminals) is a cent lost from genuine hard-working independent musicians and it’s f___ing sh_t that the organisations that can do the most about it are the ones doing the least (aka just removing anything suspicious and passing on zero information to anyone).
Fighting for independent musicians for 20+ Years
Since it’s inception in a “windlowless attic somewhere in Switzerland” the founders of iMusician have been fighting for independent musicians. iMusician are a major reason why any independent musician, and not just artists from one of the big labels, can be counted in the charts in Europe and we’re not going to stop fighting for independent musicians.
We have recently started to invest more into growing our playlist, naturally we feature more of our own artists (although everyone is free to submit to the playlists) and we will be spending actual money on gaining followers to these playlists so that our artists can make more money.
The New Subscription Model
I will deal with just our model here, comparison with competitors is below (we know we don’t operate in a vacuum).
Reducing the cost to release
Our main aim was to reduce the cost of releasing. Yes, some shops were moved to subscription only (because they require additional manual work / checks). but we wanted to ensure that we were still able to offer a level of releasing to the shops that most people wanted for a much reduced price, if you want access to additional features then you can subscribe - even if just for 1 month - and then when you unsubscribe, your track stays online forever, with the features from the subscription (except the commission).
Did we get the price / shop mix right? - we’re still listening to feedback and we are engaged in conversations with customers and shops to try to improve this.
More power, more control, more money.
On top of that we are working on making your releases more powerful, how? By creating better promotion tools. We started with “Artist Hub” (aka release pages) and will soon be releasing our new Artist Pages that will bring together all of your releases.
Our future plans here will be to enable you to make money from your fans, directly. And I won’t give away more than that.
Sidenote: We’re not great at talking about our future plans, we might sound paranoid but we know our competitors are here on the community and in our email lists so we’re trying to not give away every single future plan before we get there because, yes - we are a smaller company and we are slower (currently) than others to get tech releases out. (hey, there! We see you , come say hi! )
Yep, it is a hot and contentious topic in the music industry and we admit it too, we’re not a fan of commissions. However, let’s put it a different way.
Distrokid and Tunecore will take your music down from the shops if you stop paying them. This basically makes their offering a commission (if you think about it). You pay $19.99 (minimum) per year, whether you release or not. That means you need at least 84,029 streams (at the 2021 Spotify payout rate) otherwise iMusician’s 10% commission will be cheaper and your entire catalog won’t be taken down if your payment card fails.
So why charge a commission in the first place?
The commissions are there to cover other costs we have (the €9 release fee goes to the humans and robots that check your release can stay online, and we are genuinely working to reduce this even further ) so then the commission goes to managing payouts / storing tracks (we keep the original track in case new shops appear) / managing your music if shops take it down / etc.
Competitors - do we stack up?
We agree that our offering is different to other competitors, and this makes it a lot harder to compare. Trying to compare us is made even harder by the hidden fees that other distributors don’t talk about…
- $19.99 per year or they will take your music down
$29 per single / $49 per album to keep your track online only if you die or your payment card fails
- So to get the same as iMusician, you are paying both your subscription for your lifetime and 30 dollars ON TOP!
- $0.99 per song per year to be on extra discovery platforms that can identify your song (like Shazam) (included with Apple Music with iMusician).
- $7.95 per album per year to be added to new stores that they get a partnership with, after your release.
- You don’t get in the YouTube Content ID for free, $4.95 per single or $14.95 per album, per year. On top of that they take a 20% cut of your YouTube Ad revenue.
- $14.99 per year or they will take your music down
- 20% commission on Facebook, TikTok and Instagram revenues.
- Otherwise, I’ll admit - they’re pretty okay.
- $9 per release and 9% commission on everything and there’s no way to cap or reduce it.
- 40% comission on YouTube Creator Music sync
With most of these services, they have separate companies to do promotional tools so that they get “2 bites of the cherry”.
- CDBaby’s HearNow is $24.00 a year - iMusician’s Artist Hub is free and does the same thing.
- Linkfire itself is $119 per year or covered with adverts on the free version.
- Distrokid’s Hyperfollow is free and not a bad option (happy to admit we can be better at things).
Also - here is the source of most of my information
A Global Advantage?
Ok, so Switzerland is a tiny country that is pretty unique in the world (and not just for it’s chocolate, cows and mountains).
It’s not a popular topic, but trying to get money out of the USA is hard. Especially when it comes to music royalties, you’ll either have to fill in the exciting W-8ECI form if you’re lucky and your country has an agreement with the USA otherwise you’ll basically have to pay the 30% witholding tax Think of it as 30% commission… (Distrokid, CDBaby)
In great news for iMusician customers, Switzerland charges no witholding tax on any royalties, anywhere, globally. So for most of you, you can get 30% more money. Bonus.
If you got this far drop me a in the comments and a on the post
Foreign currency fees.
We know we don’t have every currency available (yet) but by having more than just US dollar available we hope we can reduce those annoying banking fees for foreign currencies.
We also use Wise for most of our payouts (outside of ) to give you the best currency exchange rate possible (as far as we could find)… meaning more money for you (again).
These are just two small (but very important) operational things that I hope show our determination to do the right thing by our customers.
Support & Communication post launch
OK, so here are two things we didn’t get completely right.
As CMO, I gotta take some responsibility here for how the launch was communicated and… we learnt A LOT… we won’t make huge huge changes to iMusician overnight again. We know it f__ks with your release plans and we don’t want to do that, so… yup, happy to take the blame for that, from now on our focus is on adding more “things” and not doing a wholesale change overnight.
So changing our support to be community based seems to have most people think it will get worse and I am hoping this isn’t the case. It wasn’t designed for this, we had hoped that it would allow musicians to help musicians (and we can see cases where this has worked, most recently thanks to @cantheproducer).
We’ll continue to try to improve how we offer support and what we do here. We have 2x updates that are already in the pipeline including automating updates and the ability to change email addresses on accounts without having to come through support, that should help some of the most common threads here.
You matter to us.
Really. It’s true. but, we really won’t bring back the old offerings, so where do go for the future? Let’s have a constructive discussion: what can iMusician provide you that would make your life as a musician better?
Happy to have a good conversation with you